Released in March, 2009, it's now made numerous reruns.
Apparently it went pretty good, including Phil Russman's somewhat
comical comment just after landing. He ends his run at the the camera
saying "and that's the way it's done" just as the wing drapes down on
various camera gear. Classic! But hey, Phil was actually the first guy
to land in the boxing ring which turned out to be the story they were
looking for. Reality was WAY different than depicted. I'll explain.
When we first talked, the mission was to land, power off, in the
ring. I expected to be able to land and touch down in the ring but
probably not stop which is why I wanted frangible ropes. My thought was
that, if I could touch down in the ring, I'd go into the ropes on the
other side. Had it been a real ring, it would have stopped me,
especially given that those ropes are designed to stop a 200 pound
Entertainment TV is about entertaining--telling a visually appealing,
interesting story. They excelled but it wasn't exactly an accurate
depiction of how things went. Problem is, I succeeded with the original
intent (landing in the ring power-off) on my first try -- not much story
there. The shot where it looks like I missed was not me. It was Phil who
wasn't even trying to land in the ring, he was filming--concentrating on
getting a good point-of-view shot. Later on Phil, flying the bigger wing
did a beautiful power-on landing in the ring and stopped. THAT became
the story. They asked me to do that which I did after trading
wings and techniques. A power-on landing like that is quite different
(and is covered in Master Powered Paragliding 4). Make no mistake, it's
still not easy, but it's a lot easier than doing a power-off approach
and stopping in the ring.
You COULD do a power-off landing and stop in the ring but it would,
as Phil suggested, be easier with a big, slow wing. It would be riskier
since misjudgments in energy management would be harshly penalized with
a hard landing.
Overall it went well with minimum risk. I'm not a stunt man and take
enough risks as it is so I'm glad this went without hitch. You can see
log entries from during the event below the video.
It comes in two parts since there was a commercial break in between.
Sept 2009 Log entry:
I never knew paramotoring could make me this sore.
Problem is, I was so focused, so intent and working so hard, that
being worn out didn't register until nighttime. Then it hit me like a
Yesterday was my first experience on the set of a network TV show,
Fox's "Sports Science."
The challenges were plenty, not the least of which was doing the
entire shoot in a constricted parking lot and immediately next to a
million bucks worth of production equipment. There were 40 foot tall
buildings or wires on two sides, 30 foot buildings on the other two
sides and a control tower runway 100 yards north. The control tower
folks were quite accommodating of us and we remained well clear of their
operations. That's the nice thing about a paramotor, you can do that!
"Call" time was 5:30am. We arrived on the set and checked things out.
I'd visited a month ago to determine if it would work and design the
layout so as to be both interesting to them and safe for me. The entire
area was about 400 foot square. I explained our significant wind limits
but also that it's typically calm in the morning which is why we started
To be ready for the confined area, I've been practicing launching,
maneuvering, and landing all in a 300 foot square area (300 feet on each
side). I figured that would give me some margin.
What little wind there was, less than 1 mph, was exactly opposite the
forecast direction. Fortunately, it was designed so we could launch
either west or east. Their set, with its cameras, booms, and other gear
was in the middle. I'll bet there were 40 people on this set; it was
quite an involved production, at least to me.
I had a specific corridor to launch through. That provided lots of
the challenge because, as the morning matured, a crosswind developed and
we still had to launch in the same direction. Our inflation and takeoff
area was long and skinny.
One time the wing came up crooked and I only powered up to a jog so
as to steer onto the right course before getting to the set. People had
to move out of the way but I didn't accelerate until I was back on
course and in the desired track. Man was that fun! You control the
wing's bank by positioning your body. Wanna go right, run slightly left,
get the wing slightly right then follow it around the turn. Being only
in a jog, I had limited brake use.
Launch after launch. It was a lot of work but extremely rewarding and
they all went off with no resets. Hopefully I'll have more on it,
including a very few pictures. Obviously I was occupied and didn't have
opportunity to take any pictures until it was all over.
Some observations. They'll ask you to do some very unsafe things only
because they don't know about our limits. But once I explained, there
were understanding. I simply explained what I was willing to do.
Communications, using the new setup, were flawless. We're using a
specific mic that works extremely well with our application and certain
radios and a thumb-mounted push-to-talk (PTT). Even at full power we can
hear each other perfectly. I'll be selling it soon on FootFlyer and will
explain it for those who want to build it themselves to save money. My
goal is to have reliable communications with more pilots when I go
flying and share that with others.
The folks on the set were all extremely great to work with and it
sounds like the final product ought to be interesting. I'm, of course,
looking forward to see the final results.
As always, Phil Russman, flying camera, was great to work with, too.
And I'll bet he got some great inflight footage along with doing an
exceptional job piloting.
I'm told the show won't air until about March of next year. My
curiosity will have to wait.
Choice of Gear
Thanks to Bob Armond of Paratoys who supplied 1 Blackhawk 172, a
Paratoys 30 m² wing, Andy McAvin of MacPara for supplying a 25 m²
Spice, and finally to Mark MacWhirter for letting my fly his beautifully
polished and perfectly running Blackhawk 172.
When they first called me, the show was going to be about spot
landing. "How accurate can you land that thing without power, anyway?"
was the question. Secondary to that was landing in a boxing ring. My
choice of wing was a higher performance glider that I could slow down,
the Spice 25. But it's still moderately fast. Yes, I could quite
reliably get into the ring, but could only slow it down so far. No big
deal if the emphasis is on just hitting the spot.
Then the emphasis changed. The "landing on a dime" became just get
into and stop in the ring. For that, a larger, slower wing would be
ideal. And indeed, that is what I did. The Paratoys still has decent
handling but, moreover, can be slowed down a lot.
You'll just have to watch the show to find out how it went.
The whole affair was enormously taxing, very intense, and possibly the most focused
paramotor flying I've ever done. It was also among the most rewarding.
But boy am I glad it's over!
The episode has been posted on the internet (see above). They did a great job but, as you would expect,
spiced it up a bit in the editing. Credit to Phil Russman who had the
foresight of suggesting the big wing and power-on landing. I was doing
them all power OFF (idle so I could do multiple attempts) since "fan man's" motor was off at the time of his
landing although nobody knows for how long. But when Phil landed in the
ring with power and stopped, they were ecstatic and asked me to do just
that. Landing and stopping with power is obviously dramatically easier
than landing in the ring, power off, over the first ropes and prior to
Either way it was a lot of fun, stressful, and worked out very well.
I've gotten permission to spill the beans. The show
is Sports Science on Fox Sports. The task started out as landing on a
dime from a power off approach at several hundred feet. All to see how
possible it is to land one of "these things" accurately. It morphed
until it was all about landing in the ring.
There was one tense moment. I was told to come in for
the landing so I shut off the motor. At 50 feet or so, gliding towards
the target, they came over the radio "hey, we need a couple more
minutes." Even if the hand-start motor was easy to restart (and I'm told
this one is), there clearly wasn't time for that. I continued the
landing onto the target. The issue was that crew people working nearby
didn't know about my approach. So we made the communications channel way
more direct and that solved the problem.